ECHR ruled against Spain in 9 out of 10 cases in 2018

Russia, Turkey, and Ukraine are the countries with the most convictions for human rights violations

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled against Spain in 9 of the 10 sentences related to the country that it issued last year. This is according to the yearly report unveiled by the Strasbourg court at a press conference on Thursday. Among the articles of the European Convention that Spain has violated are that of inhuman and degrading treatment, the right to a fair trial, the right to privacy and family life, freedom of expression, and the absence of an effective enquiry.

Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Romania, and Hungary top the list of countries most frequently judged by this Court with at least one violation of the European Convention. From these five countries come "87% of the priority requests that were dealt with in 2018," said Guido Raimondi, President of the Court. "It is important to note that the requests that come from Russia, Romania, and Hungary are related to conditions of detention and, as far as Turkey is concerned, with illegal arrests," said Raimondi.

Together with Italy, these countries also account for most of the 4,051 pending cases to be seen by the Court. The ECHR has 279 outstanding requests from Spain, including those related to the referendum held on October 1st: Strasbourg still has not resolved any of the complaints for the Catalan case.

The arrival of complex cases or those that raise new issues is the main challenge that the Strasbourg Court of Human Rights says it is facing. President Raimondi said that when these circumstances occur, the committee that studies and judges them cannot consist of only three magistrates, but that these cases must be dealt with by a larger team. In these situations, Raimondi has set the committee size at seven magistrates.

The President of the Tribunal also stressed the importance of the principle of subsidiarity to which countries must respond. "States must take their work seriously and guarantee internal respect for the European Convention on Human Rights," he concluded.

Rulings against Spain

The trial against Basque leader Arnaldo Otegui, the burning of a photograph of the king, and the expulsion of two Moroccans were some of the most notable ECHR rulings against Spain last year, according to the CNA.

In March 2018, the ECHR did not see incitement to hatred in the burning of photos of King Juan Carlos and his wife by two young people on September 13, 2007 in Girona’s Plaça del Vi. The judges considered that the action, carried out by Enric Stern and Jaume Roura to protest the visit of the then monarch to the city, was protected by the young men's right to freedom of expression and thought and that, therefore, this right was violated.

In November, Strasbourg ruled in favor of Otegi and four more plaintiffs, ruling that the National Court had violated their right to a fair trial. The court determined that their right "to a fair trial" was violated when they were tried and sent to prison for the Bateragune case. The five plaintiffs alleged that the magistrates of Madrid’s National Court who judged them were not impartial in their opinion. For this case Otegi was sentenced to 10 years in prison plus 10 of disqualification, which the Supreme Court lowered to six and a half years.

At the end of the year, Strasbourg also ruled against the expulsion of two Moroccans residing in Catalonia, finding that the Spanish authorities had failed to examine the nature and seriousness of the crimes committed. Thus, they believed that their rights had been violated by not taking "into consideration" the plaintiffs' residence time and family, social, and cultural ties in Spain and in Morocco when they ordered the expulsion.

The October 1st case

During the annual press conference to present the results of the court's activity, the president of the ECHR, Guido Raimondi, refused to say whether there are "risks" that Spain is infringing on fundamental rights.

With regard to the pre-trial imprisonment of the pro-independence politicians and the willingness of the defenses to take their cases all the way to Strasbourg, Raimondi merely said that although the court has open cases related to Spain, it cannot "draw any general conclusion regarding the situation of democracy in Spain". "We have many cases, and we are waiting for the court's response," he added.

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